(By Ray D.)
Sex sells and Stern magazine is apparently hard up for cash. Don't believe us? Just look at this cover if the Viagra isn't working. Now that is a real attempt to please the million readers and reach-out to the "Bild" pinup crowd.
Seriously though. There is a war in the Middle East and we at Medienkritik expected to see something (shall we say) slightly different on the cover of Germany's most widely read political weekly. The Blue Lagoon was not quite what we had in mind. On the other hand, if you can pull your eyes away from nature's bling-bling for just a moment and look down at the lower-right-hand corner, there is a small subhead about Hezbollah. And to be completely fair, Editor-in-Chief Andreas Petzold, winner of our 2003 anti-Americanism prize, did dedicate most of his weekly editorial to the conflict and the cycle of violence and hatred that he believes it has spurned. Here's a quote:
"It is understandable that the Jewish state, after 58 years of fighting for its existence doesn't want to look on without acting. Nevertheless: If it is most urgently about destroying those rockets-, the real threat to the life of the Israelis-, why must entire sections of Beirut be reduced to rubble and ash? Would have been so dishonorable to trade the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers for a handful of Lebanese.
A handful of "Lebanese?" An interesting choice of words to describe Hezbollah terrorists...
And how can Mr. Petzold ask about civilian casualties when Hezbollah is so obviously using the Lebanese people, (and anyone else they get a hold of - including UN peacekeepers,) as human shields? Does he honestly believe that Israel is intentionally targeting civilians? Petzold's patently false assertion that Israel is destroying entire sectors of Beirut testifies either to his profound ignorance or a perverted belief that Israel is engaged in a campaign to kill innocent women and children.
The fundamental problem with Mr. Petzold's editorial can be identified as what we would call the angry left's cycle of ignorance. Fortunately, not all of us were born yesterday. Some of us actually remember that Israel has attempted to appease and compromise and negotiate and exchange prisoners time and time and time again for decades on end. In exchange, Israelis have gotten suicide bombers, rockets, invasion and international scorn.
And why should we assume that putting another big, wet, UN band-aid on the region will do anything but exacerbate the problem and buy more time for Hezbollah and its supporters in Damascus and Tehran? Perhaps Mr. Petzold and other German media gurus should read what Claudia Rossett recently had to say about past efforts to solve the crisis the multilateral way:
"Hezbollah deliberately provoked this war on July 12 by kidnapping Israeli soldiers inside Israel’s borders, and has been launching rockets into Israel from a massive arsenal that under U.N. writ Hezbollah is not even supposed to possess. That was not the deal under which Israel, in keeping with U.N. wishes, withdrew entirely from southern Lebanon in 2000. The U.N. promise was that Hezbollah would be defanged and that U.N. peacekeepers would help the Lebanese government reestablish control over Hezbollah-infested terrain inside Lebanon.
Over the past six years, Israel honored its commitment to peace. The U.N. — disproportionately — required in practice no such compliance on the Lebanese side of the border. The “peacekeepers” of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, called UNIFIL, sat passively looking on, costing about $100 million a year and doing nothing to stop Hezbollah from trucking in weapons, digging tunnels, and running the armed protection rackets with which it has kept a grip on swathes of Lebanon, including the southern border with Israel, parts of the Bekaa, and southern Beirut. Before the current fighting, UNIFIL had most recently distinguished itself for a run-of-the-U.N.-mill financial swindle involving a contingent of Ukrainian peacekeeping troops. On that subject, whatever laws might have been violated, the U.N. has — as usual with U.N. scams — refused to release details. Now, UNIFIL peacekeepers have been reduced to casualties of the crossfire, while Secretary-General Kofi Annan urges that we take what the U.N. has done wrong already, and do more of it.
With its false promises, and disproportionate deals for “peace,” the U.N. left Israel exposed to the attack that has now come, and a war that Israel did not seek. Like America when attacked by al Qaeda, Israel has been fighting back. In response, U.N. officials have come close to trampling each other in their stampede to the media microphones — not to admit the U.N.’s own failure to stop Hezbollah, not to apologize for administering a phony peace that incubated this miserable war, but to denounce Israel."
Unfortunately, in the German media world, and particularly at publications like Stern, there is remarkably little criticism of the UN (particularly when compared to criticism of the US), even in cases of massive incompetence, bungling impotence and outrageous waste. How many Germans know that it cost $100 million to support UNIFIL? How many critical articles have been run in German media on the performance of UNIFIL and the expansion of Hezbollah over the past several years? It is this chronic bias and unwillingness to explain historic context that has strongly contributed to Germans' rejection of Israeli actions. So it shouldn't really surprise anyone that 75% of Germans polled find Israel's actions "inappropriate" while only 12% see them as "appropriate" and 13% don't know. Opinions like those expressed recently by Charles Krauthammer are frighteningly rare in German and European media. The resulting views speak for themselves.
As they say: Ignorance is bliss. And never stare at the sun...
UPDATE: The Qana tragedy is playing predictably in the German media. Almost no one is asking why Hezbollah chooses to place rocket launchers and other military assets in cities full of vulnerable civilians. Once again, Israel is being handed the majority of the blame. This article in the SZ (in German) is a typical example in which the author completely fails to acknowledge Hezbollah's cynical, reckless use of civilians as human shields. There are many more articles with much the same tone. The German blog No Blood For Sauerkraut has a more balanced take (in German).